Amelia Moore is optimistic that consumers’ interest in supporting small business over the holiday season bodes well for her business, Mimi’s Minis, whose products—miniature stuffed animals—will be available exclusively online from late November to early December.

“No two Minis are exactly alike, and they make a special holiday gift for young children, teachers—anyone, really!” she said.

A fifth-grade student at Steele Elementary School in Denver, Amelia is one of some 40 young entrepreneurs planning to sell their products at the online YouthBiz Marketplace from Nov. 27 through Dec. 6. She intends to donate 50 percent of her profits to local animal shelters.

The online event is hosted by Young Americans Center for Financial Education, a nonprofit that also houses the world’s only bank specifically designed for youth up to age 22: Young Americans Bank. The Center offers programs that complement and reinforce one another to build life skills, work skills, and financial self-sufficiency.

The Center’s YouthBiz Director Maite Wantwadi noted that the inability to hold a live in-person sales event during a pandemic seemed like an obstacle at first. Instead, it became an opportunity for the young business owners to develop new skills suited to ecommerce.

Customers looking to “shop small” are encouraged to check out Amelia’s business and those of the other participating entrepreneurs at the YouthBiz Marketplace from Nov. 27 through Dec. 6.

Bankers’ Bank of the West has supported Young Americans Center for more than a decade on the belief that the early and effective financial education provided by the Center makes a lasting positive impact on children’s lives. Find more information on the Center at yacenter.org.

by Chris Hill, SVP & CFO | Bankers’ Bank of the West

While unemployment trends are improving, the current environment has created a new vector for fraudsters.

Numerous state governments and law enforcement agencies have been getting reports from citizens who received cards used to facilitate unemployment payments and accompanying paperwork even though they had never applied for unemployment.

At a time of severe strain on states’ budgets, this scheme is targeting the pandemic assistance programs that provide unemployment assistance for self-employed workers and those unemployed as a result of COVID-19.

Law enforcement encourages anyone affected to report what happened for the purpose of creating a record of it. Authorities note that those targeted could be victims of identity theft.

People who receive a card they did not expect or request are advised to immediately contact the card issuer to deactivate the card. Additional recommended action steps include initiating a fraud alert with the consumer credit bureaus and reporting the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has received new claims requesting back pay from dates as old as February, forcing it to modify the process for obtaining backdated benefits. That shift, which requires applicants to speak directly to a department employee, led to a 40% drop in new claims. However, the CDLE estimates that more than 75% of claims since July 18 were fraudulent. The agency believes the new procedure has effectively blocked over $750 million in improper unemployment insurance payments.

Being no strangers to data privacy and protecting customers’ personal identifying information, bankers can proactively support their customers and communities by providing education, raising awareness, and sharing resources to help fight fraud. Following is a list of hyperlinks to appropriate contacts across Bankers’ Bank of the West’s market area:

 

posted July 31, 2020

by Chris Hill, SVP and CFO | Bankers’ Bank of the West

Over the past several months, two dynamics – the slump in retail activity triggered by the pandemic and a growing reliance on noncash payments – have slowed the speed of coin circulation throughout the country. Today, despite an ample supply of coins in the U.S. economy, our collective quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies aren’t moving as freely as they would under normal conditions.

Unfortunately, the consequences of the coin bottleneck are most acute for the thousands of cash-reliant small businesses and the many Americans whose only payment option is cash. For the good of the economy, we need to speed up the circulation of coins.

The U.S. Mint has stepped up the manufacture of coins and the Federal Reserve Bank has modified its allocation of coin supplies. However, the American public can play a major part in the #getcoinmoving effort simply by spending the coins they have on hand or depositing them at their bank. In fact, the U.S. Coin Task Force estimates that most of the nation’s $48 billion coin supply is “sitting dormant inside America’s 128 million households.”

We invite you to join the grassroots effort to #getcoinmoving quickly into the economy. Raid your piggybank, spend or deposit your coins, and become a hero today!

Chris Hill is a member of the U.S. Coin Task Force.

Much like its impact on the world, the COVID-19 situation has resulted in broad and unique operating challenges for financial institutions, and a very fluid regulatory environment. In response, we will be posting periodic updates to help keep BBW stakeholders informed on what we see transpiring across the industry. Below you will find summaries of the following:
▪ Recently issued interagency guidance
▪ Other recently issued regulatory guidance or legislative developments
▪ Examples of early “best practices” we are encouraging or seeing implemented during these unprecedented times

RECENT INTERAGENCY RELEASES (SINCE 3/19/2020)

By Greg Miller, IT Analyst · Bankers’ Bank of the West
A few short months ago, you probably never thought you’d be working from home. But in these interesting times we find ourselves in, there you are sitting in your pajamas working on a laptop or other device from the comfort of your couch. Aside from the social distancing we are all practicing, how can you keep your network and said devices healthy? Here are some tips to help you avoid some of the common hazards.

First, make sure your virus definitions are up to date. Most likely if you are on a work-provided device, the updates are regulated through that device. But if you are using a personal device, be sure the virus protection is up to date. Second, along that same vein, make sure any apps on said device are up to date as well. Whether an Apple Product or Android, make sure not just the operating system is up to date but also all the other apps as well.

Next, be mindful of the email you receive. You might have noticed phishing attempts have increased. Be wary of emails asking for donations to help fight coronavirus. If you feel compelled to donate, always connect with the organization you choose. For example, get in touch directly to the Red Cross—not through an email solicitation. Also, keep your guard up when receiving email that appears to come from people you know. Even though the sender’s name may look familiar, the content could be from an unethical source. Your acquaintance’s email account might have been compromised, triggering an email blast to everyone in their address book. If incoming email looks off or you weren’t expecting anything from a sender, contact that sender and find out whether they meant to send it to you.

Regardless of where you do your work, remain watchful and make safety a high priority. Be extra cautious, and always contact your IT support team if you have questions: They want to help. Stay well, my friends.

Effective January 2, 2020, Bankers’ Bank of the West purchased an equity stake in Bankers’ Banc Investment Services, LLC, the holding company of First Bankers’ Banc Securities Inc. (FBBS). With this purchase, BBW is the fourth bankers’ bank to become a shareholder in the company.

FBBS has worked with more than 1,000 clients in some 25 states since its founding. The firm currently has offices in four states, primarily in the Midwest. Founded to serve community banks of all sizes and their investment portfolios, FBBS is in sync with the bankers’ bank philosophy of responsive service and partnership.

This move achieves BBW’s objective of augmenting our securities product offering with high-quality investment product and professional services, which include municipal and agency bond products, portfolio advisory, portfolio accounting, and ALM/IRR reporting. For FBBS, this mutually beneficial relationship creates expansion opportunities in the West.

It is important to note that BBW’s safekeeping services, which have been performed in-house for years, will be unaffected. They will stay in-house, and the process will be streamlined for BBW safekeeping clients who choose to trade through FBBS.

While we realize you likely have existing relationships with securities firms, we would appreciate your giving FBBS the opportunity to earn your business.

Duane Kerner, an FBBS investment officer, will work out of Bankers’ Bank of the West’s Denver offices. Duane plans on traveling with BBW’s correspondent team to introduce himself in the future. We look forward to sharing more information with you and wish you a prosperous year ahead.

 

A smidgeon of prevention could reduce the chance of a big hack headache
Greg Miller, IT Analyst, Bankers’ Bank of the West
Posted October 2019

The often-heard claim “everything is bigger in Texas” is unfortunately proving true for ransomware, which has hit at least 22 municipalities in in that state. Clearly, ransomware is not going away; in fact, it continues to rank at the top of most troublesome hacks affecting companies all over the world. Here a few pointers on how to avoid being part of the next statistic to fall victim to ransomware. These can be applied by towns and cities, in your workplace, and even in your home.

  1. Start with the most basic and easy-to-implement preventive measure: Don’t click on things—links and images, for example—you’re unsure of. If you have even the slightest doubt about its legitimacy, do NOT click.
  2. Then: Back up, back up, back up. Make sure your company backs up regularly. At home, too, make sure to back up things that are important. If you don’t want to lose it, back it up.
  3. Furthermore, patch: Be sure that any time a new update or patch is issued for your computer, cell phone, or other internet-connected devices, install the patch promptly. The majority of hacks come from unpatched software that allows malicious actors to gain access.

These are just a few simple steps to help keep you safe from becoming the next in a long line of compromised victims. Be safe online, and be careful clicking!

Out with the old, in with the new: A rehaul for outmoded password procedures
Ashlee Aleshire-Ash, Senior IT Support Specialist, Bankers’ Bank of the West
Posted August 2019

From the inception of security for technology, we’ve been urged to change our passwords regularly. The common advice was to make the password complicated, nonsensical, and (most importantly) something nobody else could guess. That is now changing: Recently, many organizations—Microsoft and the National Institute of Standards and Technology among them— have released statements indicating current password procedures are obsolete and in need of an overhaul.

Before, the guideline had been to change your password every 90 days. That password had to be no fewer than eight characters long with at least one uppercase, lowercase, number, and special character. Now we’re being advised to change passwords only when a breach occurs.

From an IT perspective the new recommendations might seem dangerous, but there are some stipulations to add layers of security. First, passwords should always be checked against a blacklist of known passwords. (Also, by now it should be obvious that using “pass word” in your password is not best practice.) Second, use all characters available, including the space. Third, password length should be anywhere from 8 to 64 characters long. Fourth, use a second factor for authentication.

To clear up any confusion the previous sentence might have caused: Multifactor authentication takes something you alone have and turns it into another way to authenticate with a system. The simplest form is the RSA token. In recent years, smart innovators have applied the idea behind an RSA token to creating an app for your phone—something you’re likely to always carry with you.
Changing passwords is nobody’s idea of a good time, but don’t camp outside your friendly neighborhood IT person’s door with pitchforks just yet: These things will take time to implement. Many websites already have no limits on password age, and yet business systems will be slow to follow for a variety of reasons. The best advice I can offer is this: Multifactor authentication is the way of the future. Be ready for it.

Yes, you’ve heard that song before—but no, don’t tune it out
Ashlee Aleshire-Ash, Senior IT Support Specialist, Bankers’ Bank of the West
Posted May 2019

Recently, a newly discovered security vulnerability made the news. We hear about security issues continually, so why should this instance have garnered any attention? For good reason: Instead of targeting newer systems like Windows 10, this vulnerability is specific to computers using older, end-of-life operating systems. The potential for damage from this vulnerability is so great, Microsoft has released a security update for Windows XP for the first time in over two years. For reference, support and updates for Windows XP were discontinued in April of 2014. This is kind of a big deal.

The vulnerability in question allows remote attackers to take control of an affected system without a username or password. The havoc they can wreak once inside a system is limitless. For example, if they gain access to an unpatched Windows XP system, they can create new accounts with full administrative rights, install programs, and view sensitive data—financial records, personal identifiable information, and the like. Everything.

We’ve all heard the refrain before: Update your systems, your applications, your passwords. It’s advice often falls on deaf ears. But this exploit highlights why IT professionals regularly hit the “replay” button. Older systems, particularly those that are no longer being updated, are especially vulnerable to attacks. Luckily in this case, Microsoft understood the severity of the issue and stepped up to fix it. Still, the fact remains: Ensuring you have the most up-to-date operating systems and applications installed on your devices is the most effective way to keep yourself and your data safe.

You’ve heard the song before and will surely hear it again: Please be sure your devices have the most current operating systems and programs available for your hardware. You are the most important component to keeping your data safe.

Strategic planning today—more critical (and more advantageous) than ever
Jim Swanson, SVP–Bank Strategies, a Division of Bankers’ Bank of the West [copyright 2018]
Posted October 2018

From time to time, many of us find managing our day-to-day workload challenging. Of necessity, we often find ourselves in head-down mode trying to get through the tasks at hand. It’s easy to get stuck in this pattern day after day, month after month.
But in this era of rapid change, it’s more important than ever to periodically pull yourself out of the weeds and climb to a higher vantage point where you can evaluate where you are and where you’re heading as an organization.
Most of us know this but allow the detail of our lives to take control and displace higher priorities. As John F. Kennedy once aptly observed, “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” There’s tremendous value in sitting down with the key players at your bank for a well-structured strategic planning exercise.
An effective strategic planning process—one that incorporates both ongoing monitoring and follow-up—can produce a multitude of benefits. Common outcomes include, among other things:

(1) Readiness. Strategic planning gives your team an opportunity to react to the threats and capitalize on the opportunities emerging on the evolving landscape—changes in social and economic behaviors, demographics, technology, and delivery platforms.

(2) Concentrated effort. It’s an ideal forum for getting everyone in the organization apprised of, committed to, and doing their part to achieve initiatives and objectives that are critical to the bank’s success.

(3) Stewardship. The process is an opportunity to ensure the leadership is fulfilling its fiduciary duties and meeting expectations and needs of stakeholders — shareholders, employees, customers, and regulators.

(4) Cohesive communication. A long-lasting byproduct of sound strategic planning is the assurance that all key contributors, including the board, will be kept regularly informed of the progress on goal achievement, the plan’s strategic initiatives, and its action steps.

Bank Strategies, a division of Bankers’ Bank of the West, has been assisting community banks with strategic planning for many years. Reach us at jim@bankstrategiesllc.com or 303-903-9369 to discuss how we can help facilitate or provide consultation to further the success of your next strategic planning session.